Updated: May 9, 2015
Baby Play Gym Reviews and Buying Guide:As your newborn changes into an infant, their senses become more acute and as a parent you want to help build their spacial awareness of their surroundings including sight, touch, and hearing. Although a 2 month old baby can't crawl or move around, a baby playmat or baby gym will definitely keep their attention for a while and give them some entertainment while they are lying on their tummies or backs. Play gyms are great for getting infants to reach for objects, listen to songs, and try to kick their feet. Above all, they work on your childs ability to visually watch objects and concentrate on movements as well as learn things like different colors and shapes. Overstimulation is certainly not what you are searching for here as little infants can get overwhelmed with too many lights and noises, but most of the play gyms in the toy stores mix and match the right amount. The 2 leading brand names for playmats and baby gyms are Fisher Price and Baby Einstein. They both offer a variety of products in this field and most are priced between $40 and $60.
The most basic baby activity gyms or mats have a quilted type floor that has 2 bendable arches that reach over it and criss cross to form a dome shaped skeletal tent (no top or sides). The baby is then placed on the quilted bottom and can look up at the toys and activities above them. The more extravagent baby gyms have sounds and lights that come on. The majority try to incorporate colors, textures, shapes, mirrors, and spinning objects into the play gym. The idea behind them is to get the infant to reach up for the various toys and touch them or at least get their motor skills going. My daughter used to love to touch the mirror on hers and then watch it rock back and forth above her. The ones with music are definitely a more entertaining idea for kids and parents. You'll get more "free time" as a parent if your child actual stays fixated on the activities. We found that our daughter would actually roll from her tummy to her back while playing in her play gym which is what we wanted. At first, she hated having to strain her neck to look up and after a while she gained lots of strength in her neck and then one day she just rolled over while trying to reach for one of the toys. Play gyms and mats should be machine washable since we all know that babies spit up. The toys should be moveable amongst the ringlets on the arches so you can change the position of them to keep things interesting. Your infant may not be able to reach the highest ones at first so move them to the lower positions on the arch so they get some satisfaction of touching and feeling the textures and shapes. What we found in reviews listed on Amazon.com is that you really can't go wrong with these baby play activity mats. Few, if any, received low scores in owner reviews. The Fisher-Price Rainforest Melodies & Lights Deluxe Gym is one of the most popular play gyms on the market at this time and parents love it. With music, lights, and sounds, it keeps their infant engaged and gives them a quick break from having to hold the baby. Many parents felt like the play mats are "educational" as well as entertaining and almost all said they would buy the Fisher Price product again. The Baby Einstein Seek & Discover Activity Gym is another top rated infant gym and parents have come to know the Baby Einstein collection quite well. If you are headed to a baby shower, these baby playmats make a great gift for new parents. They'll thank you down the road when they realize the activity centers give them a few minutes of "me time" and a chance to just relax for a few minutes while the baby is entertained. You can pick baby gyms up in stores like Walmart, Target, Kmart, Toys R Us, and Babys R Us. Online, it's easy to compare the different baby play gyms on sites like Amazon.com, which is where we recommend doing your online shopping for the best selection and cheapest prices. Amazon is loaded with customer reviews which should help in your decision making and we found a great article on About.com in their baby section about play mats and baby gyms. They listed their 9 favorite products with descriptions and links to the products homepages. Periodically you will see one of these get recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, so be sure to check their website at CPSC.gov to read up on the latest recalls. You can browse the top selling baby playmats and gyms here.